After years of lacking consensus on the proper way to conduct CPR for dogs and cats, a group of more than 100 board-certified veterinary specialists has released the first evidence-based guidelines for CPR.

Previously, there has been great variation in the veterinary profession as to how practitioners had treated companion animals in cardiac arrest. According to a statistic from the University of Pennsylvania, less than 6 percent of dogs and cats that suffer cardiac arrest in the hospital survive to go home to their families.

In total, the committee developed 101 specific clinical guidelines. Each guideline is rated based on the strength of the evidence found in the studies supporting the guideline.

Published June 7, 2012 in a special issue of the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, the guidelines include algorithms and drug-dose charts, as well as the method by which the new guidelines were identified.

Recommendations include:

· Perform 100-120 chest compressions per minute of one-third to one-half of the chest width, with the animal lying on its side.

· Ventilate intubated dogs and cats at a rate of 10 breaths per minute, or at a compression to ventilation ratio of 30 to 2 for mouth-to-snout ventilation.

· Perform CPR in 2-minute cycles, switching the "compressor" each cycle.

· Administer vasopressors every 3–5 minutes during CPR.

Other guidelines pertain to how clinicians should be trained, how to perform CPR on dogs of different breeds and sizes, what drugs to give when and what follow-up care to provide.

Manuel Boller, a senior research investigator in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and Daniel Fletcher, assistant professor in veterinary emergency and critical care at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, spearheaded the effort known as the RECOVER initiative (abbreviated for the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation).

The initiative was a collaborative effort of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC) and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS). Together, the groups hoped they could increase survival rates of dogs and cats under cardiac arrest.

Boller and Fletcher recruited specialists from around the world who reviewed more than 1,000 scientific papers related to dog and cat CPR procedures.

Using the new guidelines, the RECOVER team is developing an Internet-based training curriculum to certify clinicians in veterinary CPR.

The guidelines will be updated regularly, with the next RECOVER already planned for 2017.

Read more about the new guidelines for veterinary CPR.

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